Every so often, there is an issue of a comic book that leaves me completely speechless, and not in a bad way. Every now and then there’s a moment, a twist, a story, something that truly amazes me to the point where I have to compose my thoughts before describing it. Some of these moments include Magneto being revealed as Xorn in New X-Men #146, or the final page of the Superman "Ending Battle” saga where he flies in front of the Lexcorp twin towers (a metaphor for the World Trade Center) with his familiar yellow “S” after about 2 years of wearing black inside the shield. There are many of these moments in my many comic boxes and there have been many throughout history. But I just had one this past week in a most unexpected place; Brothers in Arms #3.
I have stated that I am a bit of a history buff and one area that particularly interests me is World War II. Nothing has ever changed the world, nor shaped the future of the world, more than the events leading up to, and during World War II. But even more than that, some of the individual stories coming out of World War II, real or fictional, can be powerful and moving. World War II is even its own genre when it comes to video games and that is where this series was initially born. I have been raving about how well done this series has been; the focus on the characters, their lives before the war and the overall chaotic tone of the hell they have been thrown into. And while the first two issues were fantastic, this third installment is astronomical. This may indeed be one, if not the best, single World War II comics I have ever read.
Writers Mike Neumann and David Wohl used the first issue to briefly introduce each of the main characters. Issue #2 and #3 each focus on a pair of soldiers, in this case, Matt Baker and Joe Hartsock. The story heavily focuses on Joe and how he got the scar that runs across his face and how that led to his meeting his wife. Keeping with the storytelling style of the series, Neumann and Wohl seamlessly transition between Joe’s past where he engages in a bar fight, and the present where he fights to stay alive while carrying out his duties. It’s a fantastically written character piece that feels true to World War II and feels true to what many have described as something always looming in the back of a soldier’s mind. The issue opens with an introduction to Joe’s past, quickly transitions into the present time on a mission, and then flashes back to one hour before Joe and Matt are sent on their mission. That may sound a little confusing, but believe me, it is far from complicated. The writing is so smooth and the transitions are so flawless that this issue alone takes on a fully cinematic feel.
The mission that Joe and Matt are sent on is to scope out a grouping of houses that the rest of the regiment is about to pass through. It’s here where the action picks up, and I was completely floored by the level of raw, compelling and authentic feeling World War II action that was presented on the page. Matt and Joe bust into one of the houses and stumble upon a group of German soldiers eating; the realization is quick, they’ve stumbled into German barracks, and their reactions are “do or die.” It’s hard to put into words how great the entire last half of the book turned out to be, all the while continuing the exploration into Joe’s past. The two men fight for their lives until reinforcements arrive and even then, the action doesn’t slow down one bit. I mean holy crap, I obviously never fought in World War II and regrettably never served in the military, but hot damn, this book felt authentic! There’s also no “paddy-caking” the action, I’m talking full on violence, bloodshed -- everything you’d expect from an authentic World War II movie along the lines of Saving Private Ryan. The way the bazooka fires inaccurately, the general look of shock on every character’s face when Joe and Matt bust in on the dining Germans, and even down to the small details where Joe is seen banging his magazine clip against his helmet. My pulse was pounding as I visualized this entire action sequence taking place on the big screen, it was just so well done.
I also love the way this issue ends, with a flashback to Joe’s past. Here we meet Erma, his wife who has remained a mystery throughout the issue. Neumann and Wohl make her an integral part of Joe’s character and the scar across his face not only directly links to Erma, but it also symbolizes her in a way. This is just a beautifully written comic book. And once again, Davide Fabbri delivers high octane action, excellent character depiction and consistency and authentic imagery in his artwork.
You should absolutely be reading this series, if you have any interest whatsoever in World War II, there is no excuse for you to miss this title. There is enough character drama and development and enough action to keep you involved. This is truly an underrated book and a definite grand slam.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!